The Emission Gap Report: Agriculture is the new kid on the block!

The 2013 emissions gap report by UNEP is out and as the team involved in its preparation presented the contents on the third day of COP 19, there was not much to celebrate. The panel admitted that the rate of emissions was not significantly different as per the 2012 report. As the story goes, we are headed for a 56 Gt- 60 CO2 equivalent emission level instead of the 38Gt – 44 Gt target range which would maintain temperature increase below 2oC. This gives a gap range of 8-12 Gt if all pledges are fulfilled. According to one of the panelists, we may be courting a possible temperature increase of 3oC- 4oC or even more. Well, this is not good news by any means.

Furthermore, countries have not been faithful in fulfilling their pledges on emission reductions making the above situation worse. Nevertheless, the panel gave a synthesis of the report pointing out some potential ways the globe could steer clear of the impending climate crisis.

Conspicuously standing out was the potential role of agriculture with a whole chapter dedicated to it. Clearly, this sector has been given minimum attention despite contributing about 11% of greenhouse gas emissions globally. The main agricultural practices hailed as useful were no-tillage practices,agroforestry and improved nutrient and water management in rice production. These practices have potential of reducing the emissions gap by 1.1 Gt to 4.3 Gt.

However, successful implementation of the aforementioned agricultural practices coupled with fulfillment of emission reduction would reduce the gap only by about 50%. The remaining gap would then have to be closed through national and international actions alongside other measures referred to as ‘international and cooperative initiatives’ in the report. Also, there is concern that so far,the time constraint portrayed in the report has not been reflected at all by the mood of the political negotiations. In other words, there is not much time to act and crucial decisions have to be made to successfully follow the least cost pathway in achieving desirable targets.

To conclude, the take home message was that it is going to be a tough road to attain the desired targets,but, the least cost pathway is technically possible. It can be done, procrastination will only make things tougher!

Link to the emissions gap report: http://www.unep.org/pdf/UNEPEmissionsGapReport2013.pdf

 -Isaac Rayola

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